Saturday, April 27, 2013

Karma Is Not Destiny

Do you want to change the world? A good way to do that is to understand what karma really means. A popular definition in the West is that Karma represents payback for bad deeds. It is used to mean that evil actions will somehow return to the doer. It is also used to mean fate or destiny.

However, that's not really what it means. Karma means actions, or deeds. It represents the total cycle of cause and effect (samsara). It cannot mean destiny because we have free will. We have a choice about how we act.

The three components of karma are seeds, intention, and action.

First, we have our own seeds, or history of actions and thoughts. These are patterns that we use to guide our actions. They can also be called memories or stories. They are our habitual response to certain situations. For example, when we are in a difficult conversation with some, we are likely to respond the same way as we did the last time we were in a similar situation. If we argued and screamed during the last conversation, we will probably do the same this time.

Second, we have intention. We have a purpose behind our actions. That purpose comes from our seeds. Buddhists use the terms "wholesome actions" and "unwholesome actions" to describe intention. Wholesome actions result in true happiness. Note that happiness does not include the temporary satisfaction of satisfying greed or selfishness. It refers to happiness from letting go of all the unhappy things in our life. Unwholesome actions result in unhappiness. This unhappiness may be masked by satisfying greed or selfishness, but acquiring stuff always results in unhappiness because you always want more. Note that this does not mean that money is bad or owning things is bad. That's another topic. More on that some time.

Third, we have action. This is what we actually do or say as a result of our seeds and intention.

Note that there is no such thing as "bad karma" or "good karma" because there is no such thing as good or bad. That's another big topic. More on that some time, too.

These three components (seeds, intention, and action) combine in our minds. When they are all unwholesome, the seeds for future unwholesome action are strengthened. We are more likely to do unwholesome things in the future.

When we learn how our minds truly work, we can learn to interrupt the cycle and avoid unwholesome actions. This weakens the unwholesome seeds and we are less likely to commit unwholesome actions in the future. The way to do this is through mindfulness meditation.

Let's look at karma from this point of view. We can look back and see all the decisions we made and actions we took in the past that put us where we are today. The decisions we make right now and the things we are doing right now will determine where we end up in the future. This is our karma.

Please choose wholesome things. You will be happier for it. And since we are all interconnected, the world will be better for it.

© 2013 Eric Borreson

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tai Chi and Breath

I am always amazed at how much my breath and my tai chi affect each other. One morning recently, I decided to do my forms really slowly. It normally takes about 8 minutes to go through the Sun 73. Today I took 14 minutes. Long, slow breathing during each movement. Typically 2 breaths during each movement when I normally use 1.

What a different experience. Lots of snap, crackle, and pop as my joints loosened up. Keeping the breath calm and steady really stabilized me. I was pretty solid on the kicks and steps. My balance was good and my timing was steady and consistent. At the beginning, I was using my breath to time my movements. At the end, it seemed like the tai chi movement was controlling my breath.

It seems that focusing on my breath really calms me (like it should) and I need to combine that with other principles during my practice.

Note: I don't recommend this practice for beginners. Know your forms first. Understand the principles and practice them. Then work on your breath.

© 2013 Eric Borreson

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tai Chi Can Make You Rich

I obviously don't mean money. I don't know of anyone that became wealthy because of tai chi. I mean rich in things that really matter.

Felix Dennis is a British poet and entrepreneur. He founded a publishing empire and became wealthy. He recently wrote a book titled, How to Get Rich. In it, he asks the question, How Rich is Rich? He makes the point that money can't buy happiness, at least once you are above a certain modest income level. (Lack of money can cause unhappiness, but that's another story.)

He does say there are four things that are worth caring about. These things are health, love, time, and freedom. By freedom, he means having the option of not having to be in any particular place on any particular day doing any particular thing in order to pay the rent or the mortgage.

You can read this section of the book at Amazon. Scroll down several pages and look at Page 2.

Let's talk about these 4 things and how tai chi can help you with them.
1. Health: I have written many times about tai chi for health. Tai chi has been shown to help with many chronic health conditions. Practice, practice, practice.

2. Love: Tai chi helps you accept yourself. That's the first step in learning to love other people and accepting their love in return. Notice that love has nothing to do with possessing things and attachment. It's about people.

3. Time: Practice tai chi regularly. You will develop better energy and strength. This will allow you to have the energy to do more that you would be able to do if you lived in the recliner. A few minutes of tai chi each day means hours more time each day doing the things you want to do.

4. Freedom: Nope, you've still got the rent or mortgage. However, life is so much easier when you feel good. You make better decisions and your work is better and more enjoyable. It will seem easier to go to work every day and work will just seem more free.

© 2013 Eric Borreson

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Seven Essential Questions About Qigong and Tai Chi

1. What is qigong?

Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is two words from the Chinese language. The word qi is often translated as “internal energy”, but this doesn’t really seem to be a very good translation. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it primarily refers to connecting different parts of our body. It also refers to communication where our mind, or intention, moves our bodies. Gong can be translated as exercises or work done on a regular basis in order to gain skill. So qi gong can be used to mean “exercises that enhance our vital energy and connectedness”. An alternative definition of qi is "breath". Therefore, qigong can also be translated as "deep breathing exercises". Read more here.

2. What is tai chi?

Tai chi (best pronounced as tie jee but also pronounced as tie chee) has roots in the Chinese martial arts. In the West today, it is most often used for its health and wellness benefits. Tai chi consists of a sequence of graceful, flowing movements always done in the same order. Tai chi incorporates many elements of qigong as part of the long-term practice. Read more here and here.

3. How long does it take to learn tai chi?

Several studies have shown that there are measurable health benefits from learning tai chi. These benefits usually show up after about 12 weeks of regular practice. The basic principles can be discussed and demonstrated in a short time. However, tai chi has enormous depth. It can take a lifetime to master the principles of tai chi. Read more here and here.

4. What are the different styles of tai chi?

There are several main styles of tai chi. The most common styles of tai chi are Chen (the oldest and most martial), Yang (the best known around the world), Wu, Wu/Hao, and Sun (the newest -- very appropriate for Tai Chi for Health programs). Read more here.

5. What are the health benefits of tai chi?

There are many benefits to learning tai chi. There are too many to list here, but I decided on a brief list. Practicing tai chi strengthens your immune system through activation of the lymphatic system and by invoking the relaxation response. Read more here. Tai chi has been shown to reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Read more here. It helps balance out our metabolism. Read more here. Tai chi improves physical abilities, balance, and strength. Read more here and here.

6. What is lineage and authenticity?

Lineage is the line of instruction going back to the beginning. For example, my teacher had a teacher, who had a teacher, etc. Authenticity is the recognition that the tai chi being taught and practiced is generally recognized as correct. Lineage and authenticity are important to martial arts practitioners. Sometimes it is so important as to lead to derogatory behavior and petty insults that are beneath the level of a teenager. I enjoy poking a stick in the eye of such people. Read more here.

7. How do tai chi and qigong work to improve our health?

It's not entirely clear. I believe that it is partly because it gets us up and moving. Any exercise is better than no exercise. I also believe that is it mostly because we develop a mind-body connection and learn how to slow down our busy minds. Read more here and here.

© 2013 Eric Borreson